Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hockey Boy

Hockey Boy used to be really outgoing. He was always the first to join a game or make a friend at the park. But over this last year, I have seen him pulling back, going into a shell of sorts. He has become incredibly shy. In August when we went to Supply Night at his school he wouldn't look his teacher in the eye at first. And this was the same exact, wonderful teacher he had last year. Many of his classmates are the same including his best buddy but he does not want to have to talk in front of the room anymore. He is terrified of everyone looking at him. It has been so hard to watch my social, outgoing, smart little boy become so quiet and withdrawn.

I really noticed it on the ice a few weeks ago. My tough, tenacious Hockey Boy was not going after the puck as much. He was not jumping back into line on drills so he could go again. He was shrinking. His equipment was bothering him more and he was not hanging out with his teammates as much. It was one thing to have him being shy in class but to see him slipping away on the ice where he has always felt so at home and been so happy was really hard. I was not seeing the Hockey Boy I know. He was becoming timid and timid does not work in hockey. But what do we do? How as parents could we help him? I really did not know.

And then I came across 2 Timothy 1:7 which says, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." Hockey Boy was not given a timid spirit. He was not born that way. It was something he was learning as he interacted with the world. As he is becoming more aware of the people around him, as he is learning that people do judge each other, and that life is full of competition and standards, he seemed to disengage a bit. Not only is that not what God wants for him, but that is not who Hockey Boy is. He is a smart, hard working, really competitive little guy. He wants to win. He wants to do things perfectly. He wants to be involved.

So I sat him down a few weeks ago and told him the verse. I didn't say much beyond the actual verse but his eyes seem to light up a bit when I said it. "God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." That was what he needed to hear. He was not made to be timid. Hockey Boy was made by God to be powerful, loving and disciplined. What a great verse for him to hold in his heart and mind.

He is still shy. He is still struggling at times. I know it is part of growing up for him but it makes my heart break a little. We have been working on eye contact and talking to his teacher. He is doing better at ordering his own food in restaurants and looking his coaches in the eye when he says thank you. He is starting to talk a bit more in class. And this weekend, after I reminded him again of the verse, he went out and played a tough, aggressive hockey game against much bigger boys. He had a huge smile on his face and didn't let anyone get in his way. It was awesome to see Hockey Boy being who he was made to be.

I love finding Bible verses that seem written for one of my kids. Have you found a great verse for your kid that you can share with me? I am always needing more!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Holidays... Or the Great Race to the New Year

At our house, once Halloween hits it feels like we are on a great holiday race to the new year. We start with Halloween, then it is Little One's birthday, Thanksgiving, Hockey Boy's birthday, Christmas and finally New Year's Eve which the boys and I celebrate alone because my husband has to work late into the night. You add in all the school events, hockey tournaments, special holiday concerts and Christmas parties and the calendar on my phone is all lit up with color. There are so many fun things and special moments which I love, love, love but for a homebody who likes to stay indoors reading and enjoying quiet afternoons while Little One naps it can be a bit overwhelming with all the busyness.

I normally love all things Christmas and cannot wait to pull out the Christmas decorations and holiday playlists. I am the one cheering when Target brings out the Christmas decor the day after Halloween. But this year, I am not ordering an eggnog latte at Starbucks as often as I normally would. When I turned on the radio and heard the Christmas music start the day after Thanksgiving I turned it off. It felt way too soon. I was still enjoying Thanksgiving. I was still reveling in the fact that Little One is four now. I was, and am not ready, for December.

I love Christmas. But I don't enjoy all the rush. I don't like feeling like I am in a competition for the last Bakugan Dragonoid. I love the cookies and smell of the Christmas tree. But this year I am not willing to traipse all over the tree farm looking for the perfect tree. We just don't have the time anymore. Our schedules are busier each year and more importantly I think, I am figuring out what is really important to my family.

I used to try to create the perfect holiday, straight from the movies. But over the years I am finding that my family likes different traditions. They love watching holiday shows together on the couch in our pjs. Prep and Landing was our favorite last year. They don't enjoy posing for the family Christmas card. And with Facebook it is hard to get motivated to actually take a picture, buy the cards, address them and buy Christmas stamps. I used to love to read everyone's Christmas letters but now I have been updating throughout the year so I am not sure if anyone needs a recap of our 2010.

My boys love driving around and looking at Christmas lights on all the houses. So outside lights and blowups are very important to them. My husband has taken on the task of creating a great outdoor display, making sure to get the lights up early for all the other families out there to enjoy as well as our own. Yesterday as we drove toward our house, Middle Man declared our house "the most beautiful house ever." For my family, the Christmas decor budget is much better spent on the outside. I did buy a Lego Christmas building this year. It will be fun to put together as a family and is more our style than a gingerbread house. Less messy too!

Just writing this, I am getting more in the Christmas spirit. But this year, I am going to focus on what makes Christmas special for our family. I think it is time to start enjoying the eggnog lattes. And cookies. Yummy, yummy cookies. Time to check out every Christmas book at the library to read together. Oh and did I mention the Christmas Mint M&Ms? My absolute favorite. I am hoarding them.

What are your family's favorite Christmas traditions?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Trying to Help Sometimes Gets You in Trouble

Last week, my husband was packing for a trip. He was out of brown socks and he decided to be helpful. He put some dirty clothes in a basket, went to the laundry room, moved the clean clothes from the dryer to a basket, moved the wet clothes to the dryer and put the dirty clothes in the washer. He started all the machines and brought the basket of clean clothes back to our bedroom. This would have been in incredibly helpful if I wasn't all ready for bed. But I was. I was in my pajamas all ready to climb into bed and now there was a basket of clean clothes that needed to be folded and put away.

I could have ignored the basket and waited for the morning, except there was already a basket of clean sheets waiting to be folded sitting on the chair. And for some reason, in my mind, I cannot have two baskets of clean clothes needing to be folded. It used to be that I could not have any baskets of unfolded clean clothes lying around or I could not sleep but my standards have dropped over the years and the many, many loads of laundry that come with a family of 5. I am lowering my standards all over the house and we are in serious danger of becoming a pig sty. So I could not ignore the fact that there were now, not one, but two baskets of laundry needing to be folded. So I now had to fold the clothes. There was a rule that must be followed. And since I was folding the one basket, I had to fold the other basket as well.

I was a bit annoyed at my husband. How did he not understand that by starting a load of laundry he was creating more work for me in that moment? How insensitive of him to make more work for me because he wanted brown socks? And right before he left on a trip. Not to mention the fact that I had spent a lot of time getting all the laundry done a few days before. I was also really frustrated because by starting the load of laundry he was of course telling me that I was not doing a good job. Right? That was what he was saying by trying to help. If he has to start laundry I must need help. I must be falling behind on my job.

Marriage is full of landmines. We were all set to have a peaceful night. And then my husband started a load of laundry. All because of the brown socks he couldn't find. Poor guy had no idea that his wife would take such a kind gesture and turn it into a judgment of her housekeeping skills. I am sure if he had he would have been happy to wear the grey socks in his drawer.

The grey socks right next to the brown socks which were in his sock drawer the whole time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How much?

We have been studying stewardship the last couple of weeks in our women's Bible study at church. What an uncomfortable topic for small groups. We are all so open and wiling to share our struggles and successes in prayer or service but let's not talk about money. But stewardship and giving are such a huge part of how we love and serve God. So we persevered and talked about tithing. We talked about percentages, gross or net giving and whether we have to give it all to the church or can we divide our tithes some for the church and some for other christian ministries. We talked about how we can find money in our budgets and our daily spending that we could give.

I am a big believer in tithing. I have been tithing since I was a child. My parents taught us to give 10% of any money we received to God. This was not really hard when my allowance was $2.00 and my tithe was .20. You can't buy anything with that little money. Even when I started making some money babysitting my tithe from a night was usually less than a dollar. It was not really much of a sacrifice in my mind. But it was good training. Because there came a point when the tithing started to be "real" money in my eyes. My grandfather gave us $100 Christmas checks one year. That was A LOT of money. 10% of a $100 was A LOT of money. But I gave my $10 willingly because it was what I was taught and I am so glad my parents taught me at such a young age the principle of tithing because the checks now are much bigger. And the blessings, the trust in God's provision, the joy of sharing our blessings with others is also so much bigger. We have always tithed and God has always provided. I don't doubt the connection between our trusting God with our tithe and Him blessing us beyond our needs.

I believe in tithing. But my discussions of stewardship and tithing often get caught up in the details which is so sad because God is not found in the details. He is found in our hearts and our obedience to what He is asking of us. This week in our study we read 2 Corinthians 9:6 - 8 which says,
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
I was struck by the phrase, "each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give". Paul does not write we should look at our checkbooks or calculate our tenths. He says we should give what we decided in our hearts, not our minds, to give.

So many people I know were not raised to tithe. They were never taught the joy of giving and trusting God. They have never experienced writing a tithe check that they knew they couldn't afford, only to have another surprise refund or pay increase appear. For so many tithing is big and scary and impossible. How can we give a tenth of our income? Budgets are tight and house payments have to be made. The tenth is the detail. But when we pray, when we seek God's guidance, what does He put on our hearts to give? That is what God is asking of us. He wants us to take the baby steps of trusting Him with our money, trusting Him to take care of our needs. He wants us to be obedient to what He has put on our hearts.

God doesn't need our money. He wants our hearts, our minds, our bodies - all that we are. Our money, while able to do amazing work spreading God's love and word throughout the world, is an extension of our lives. How we give is an extension of our hearts. Is your heart prompting you to give? Are you listening? Is there a baby step you can take this week?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lies Parents Tell Kids

My kids have taught me a lot of things but one of the most disturbing and yet handy is my improving skill at lying. I know that at the same time that I am teaching my kids to be honest and tell the truth, I am also actively engaged in the art of deception. Here are a few of my favorite lies parents tell kids:

- "If you don't brush your teeth they will fall out." My husband told our boys this when he was little which resulted in Hockey Boy being terrified of going to bed without brushing his teeth. So no matter how late it was or where the toothbrush might be packed, we had to find it and let Hockey Boy brush his teeth. This lie while handy at first came back to bite us in the end, though still to Hockey Boy's benefit I guess.

- "Monsters are not real." My boys loved the movie Monsters, Inc. and they were convinced for years that the monsters only lived at the ride at Disneyland. Now we are telling them monsters don't exist but the truth is the world is full of monsters, evil people who hurt people for no reason. But we keep telling the boys that monsters are fiction because we just don't want them to be scared.

- "Your little brother is going to be bigger than you when he grows up because he eats all his healthy food." We tell this lie to Hockey Boy all the time to try to get him to eat his fruits, vegetables and even pizza. It doesn't really work as much as I would have thought considering how competitive Hockey Boy is. The truth is that Little One will probably be the tallest of the three simply because of his DNA. He was taller on his 3rd birthday than the other two boys were when they turned 4.

- "I'm working!" For some reasons the boys understand the concept that working is important and shouldn't be interrupted. So sometimes when I really want to get something done on the computer, or even when I just want a few more minutes to read blogs or Facebook, I will tell Little One that I am working when really I am just procrastinating a little longer.

- "You won't get hurt." A lie I often tell any one of the boys when they get nervous about doing something new that they deem dangerous. I think when Middle Man broke his arm ice skating I was caught on this one but I now have him convinced that it was a fluke and that he won't break any more bones playing hockey. Hopefully not another lie.

- And my favorite lie, "Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus." I have never actually used those words but we talk about Santa like he is real. My husband and I both mention Santa not liking some boy's behavior or the naughty and nice list over and over again starting right after Halloween. We even have an elf named George who visits our house in December. Each night he magically flies back to the North Pole, reports all he saw to Santa, and returns before dawn the next morning sitting in a different spot than the day before. "I have no idea how he gets to the spot."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lies Parents Tell Parents to Be... A Sin of Omission

I was recently thinking about all the lies parents tell soon to be parents, or adults who might be even considering being parents, or new parents. Some are lies. Most are sins of omission, things we don't share until you are a part of the club. Then we will talk about it at length, over dinner.

Things like the lack of sleep. We talk about it and try to prepare pregnant mommies for the lack of sleep when the baby is a newborn but I don't remember anyone telling me that it would be months of middle of the night feedings, followed by years of bad dreams, middle of the night coughing fits, and morning kids who like to wake up with the sun. It feels like they are taking turns through the years. One finally outgrows the bad dreams and then another gets sick. I am exhausted.

Beyond the exhaustion, there is the saying "it never gets any easier." I heard this a lot when my kids were babies from women with older kids. These same women would tell the exhausted, overwhelmed and brain fuzzy me that I should enjoy every moment because it goes by in the blink of an eye. I was so thankful when I heard someone say, "the days last forever but the years fly by" because it made sense and I no longer wondered why all those women were romanticizing the hardest days of my life. I look at Little One now who is turning 4 next week and am amazed that he is so big. That he is no longer my baby. For me though, it has gotten so, so much easier. My kids are still full of challenges which feel bigger and way more out of my control which is hard, but they are also so much easier. They get themselves dressed, go to the bathroom alone, feed themselves and can play for long periods of time without me having to worry about choking or electrocution. There are school conferences and crazy sports schedules along with 7 year old tantrums and meanness. They keep changing on me. But each day they each become more capable, more independent and more responsible for their own lives which is the point of parenting I think.

My favorite sin of omission is the one that keeps parents to be from ever knowing the horrors they will endure at the hands of their children. The deep panic you feel when you can't see your child in the store. The pain in your heart when your child is the victim of someone being mean. Or the deepest, darkest secret of them all, the fact that you will eventually willingly catch vomit in your hands to keep it off the carpet.

We don't tell parents to be most of the hard parts of having kids. I don't know if that is because we don't want to scare them off or because we forget those parts, the ugly, hard parts when we hold the hand of our little one as we walk across the street or get a big toothless smile when they walk in the door from school. I think parenting is a lot like childbirth, the moment the baby is born we forget the pain.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I want my mommy!

There are days in my life when I want my mommy. Days when I want to call up my mommy and have her listen to me whine without trying to fix anything. Days when I am just not in a good mood and want someone to make it a little bit better by loving on me. Days when nothing has really gone wrong but I still feel sad. Days when my feelings have been hurt or my kids are not as cute as they can be. Days when I need someone I can trust not to spread the gossip but wants to listen to me vent. Friends are great but there is a safety that comes with your mommy that cannot be replicated.

Today is one of those days. I want my Mommy. For no particular reason except I am feeling a little low and would love someone to tell me how wonderful I am and how much they love me. I want to pick up the phone and call my mommy but not the mom I actually have because that brings a lot of complications and dysfunction that really doesn't make me feel better. I want the mommy I dreamed of as a little girl. I want the mommy who listens without judgment, loves without expectation and cheers without competing.

I see mother and daughter relationships all around me. Some are complicated like my own but some are actually healthy, loving and caring bonds that grow strong and deeper over time. I know daughters who lost their mothers and mothers who lost their daughters. There is no perfect relationship except on Nick at Night reruns. But there is a vast gully of pain and heartache between the healthy ones and the damaged ones.

Today I want my mommy. And it makes me very, very sad that I don't.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I'm In the Shower!

"I'm in the shower" is a phrase often heard shouted in the morning at our house. It seems that everything becomes vitally important as soon as I start shampooing my hair. I don't understand why the kids suddenly need something, anything, as soon as I get in the shower. You would think by now I would know what to expect and yet every morning I am surprised by the spilled milk that is dripping onto the floor or the missing clean socks that must be found while I am in the middle of rinsing the soap out of my eyes. There are also an amazing number of accidents requiring bandaids when I am sopping wet and naked.

On those few mornings when I am not interrupted while showering, I come out of my room and find wonderful fort creations using every couch cushion and sheets off all their beds. I have also come downstairs to find all the cereal boxes dumped all over the floor though that was years ago. But the scars of remain. Oh and there was the one time when one of my boys decided to throw a book at the nice, fancy tv and break it.

I keep waiting for the day when I can shower in peace again. When the kids were babies I loved the few minutes of peace and quiet I got in the shower. It was my refuge for the day. Now though, showering is very risky behavior. I never know who might sever a finger or decide to climb onto the roof during a game of hide and seek.

Monday, November 1, 2010

What are you?

Yesterday at church I was sitting near the front. A place I am often found first because if I am up front, I am less distracted by my friends and the people around me. Also because there are always seats up front when I come in late. During the greeting part, my pastor came up to me, since I was up front, and asked me, "what are you?" Since it was Halloween I thought he meant what was my costume going to be.

Turns out he was asking what am I? As in what is the core of who I am. Since I was not expecting such a deep question I floundered for a second and the went with the obvious. "I'm a follower of Jesus," I said. Immediately after the words were out of my mouth, actually as the words were forming on my tongue, they felt false. I knew in that moment that while the "correct" answer might be that I am a follower of Christ, it was not really true. It is not the essence of my being or the deepest definition of who I am.

I may want to be a follower of Jesus but my life is evidence to the fact that I am not most of the time. I want to claim being sold out for Christ but I like comfort, warmth and safety a little too much. My every action shows me really shows me being a follower of Jesus only a percentage of the time.

But even more than my actions giving me away, the truth is that my identity is based not on my actions but on my being. Not on what I do but who I am. And to that question I answer confidently and gratefully that I am a child of God, loved and redeemed. That is the very essence of my identity. Being a Jesus follower is something I try to do because He first loved me. But I am first and foremost a child of God, living in the grace He has extended to me.